Stigma prevents many mentally ill people from seeking help

Stigma prevents many mentally ill people from seeking help
Stigma prevents many mentally ill people from seeking help

In spite of the availability of effective treatment illness, 40 percent mentally ill people do not receive care and many who begin with an intervention do not finish it, says a report by the Association for Psychological Science. Researchers studied the role that stigma plays in these statistics.

The report was announced on Sept, and was published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. The report, The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Seeking and Participating in Mental Health Care, and the accompanying commentary, Creating and Changing Public Policy to Reduce the Stigma of Mental Illness are available online. An estimated 60 million Americans will experience mental illness within a year.

“The prejudice and discrimination of mental illness is as disabling as the illness itself. It undermines people attaining their personal goals and dissuades them from pursuing effective treatments,” said Patrick W. Corrigan, a psychological scientist at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the lead author of the report.

Corrigan and his colleagues analyzed scientific literature to identify the stigma that may stop individuals from seeking mental health care. Stereotypes were identified such the idea that mentally ill people are unpredictable or dangerous. These misconceptions leads to prejudice and stigma. Public stigma may also influence the beliefs of family, friends, and mental health care providers.

When compared to other types of illness, research and services are poorly funded, Former U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Thomas H. Bornemann of the Carter Center Mental Health Program, and Rebecca Palpant Shimkets wrote in the commentary. They also identified “widespread, inaccurate, and sensational media depictions that link mental illness with violence” and structural discrimination.

When stigma pervades societal systems and institutions, it can become structural. Researchers say that two examples of stigma are that insurance companies do not cover mental health care to the same extent as medical care and that mental health researchers do not receive as much funding as medical research on physical conditions.

The report suggests several approaches to reducing stigma at various levels and increasing the number of people seeking help for mental health issues such as: promoting personal recovery stories, establishing public policy that improves care systems, and enhancing mental health support systems.

“This issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest makes a strong start in consolidating and disseminating what we now know — that public policy, the law, and media remain our greatest resources to stimulate change and spur action,” Carter, Palpant Shimkets, and Bornemann write in their commentary. “We also need to build bridges to other fields that connect to mental health, such as public health, primary care, and education.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here